Is Your Supply Chain Ready for the Holiday Shopping Season?

Will Your Supply Chain Hold Up for the Holiday Shopping Season?

Some small business owners have already started assessing their supply chains as they look at longer delivery times caused by cargo pileups and higher shipping prices.

"Soaring demand from Americans for everything from iPads to cars is leading to a surge in freight crossing the Pacific," according to an NPR story that aired in June. 

John Nephew, the founder of the Duluth-based Atlas Games, was among the business owners who's faced challenges in getting their goods. He had expected his shipment of games to take six weeks.

"Instead, the games took nearly six months to arrive — an increasingly common example of the supply chain bottlenecks pushing inflation to its highest level in more than a dozen years," Scott Horsley reported on NPR's Morning Edition.

The NPR post said that the holdup comes in part to the record volume of cargo that overwhelmed dock workers, truck drivers, warehouses, and railroads. 

Preparing for Delivery Hold-ups

If your small business relies on specific inventory for the busy holiday shopping season, you may have already gotten started planning for longer shipment times and less predictable deliveries.

"One of the things the pandemic exposed is just the degree of vulnerability we have across our supply chain," said Brian Deese, director of the president's National Economic Council, in the NPR story.

Spotting Holdups

It might help to identify the holdup. For example, you may see a clog if your chain includes suppliers that lost workers during the pandemic and remain short-staffed - an issue that continues to affect everything from product availability to deliveries.

"When these firms can't hire enough workers, or close down, this impacts the performance of firms at the end of the supply chain," says William Dunkelberg, chief economist for the National Federation of Independent Business, in a Forbes blog

According to the July post, more than half of the businesses surveyed by NFIB reported that the impacts of these disruptions are worse than three months ago.

"As the economy re-opens, more and more of the "imbalances" and "mis-matches" are being discovered, slowing recovery and raising costs," Dunkelberg writes.

Expect Continued Higher Shipping Prices

The shipping cost continues to skyrocket, which can cause issues for your business, your supply chain, and for small businesses that rely on online sales during the holidays.

"More than 18 months into the pandemic, the disruption to global supply chains is getting worse, spurring shortages of consumer products and making it more expensive for companies to ship goods where they're needed," reported Hanna Ziady for CNN Business in a late August story.

In addition to paying higher prices, your business may have to settle less inventory than you expected or want this holiday season.

"Name almost anything and it seems like there's a shortage of it somewhere," says Bob Biesterfeld, CEO of C.H. Robinson, one of the world's largest logistics firms, in the CNN Business story.

"Retailers are struggling to replenish inventory as fast as they're selling, let alone prepare for holiday demand," Biesterfeld adds. 

Mitigating hiccups

If you're looking at supply chain logistics, fulfillment, and "last-mile delivery," there are several things to consider.

"Controlling shipping costs and mitigating fulfillment hiccups but also maintaining a positive customer shopping experience is key," says a post in Footwear News.

Kiel Harkness, head of global marketing and business intelligence and analytics at UPS Capital, shared this advice in the article: "(Businesses) must find a trusted logistics partner that can help protect the fulfillment journey starting with proper storage, inventory management, pick and pack and timely fulfillment."

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